Twenty Ethiopian opal miners trapped underground in Delanta, Amhara

Twenty Ethiopian opal miners are trapped underground in Delanta, sparking a desperate rescue effort in the South Wolo Delanta area of the Amhara region.

The incident occurred in the Alehuat area of South Wolo Zone’s Delanta District 018 Kebele, where a group of young miners found themselves trapped beneath the earth while extracting opal.

According to Mr. Eyasu Yohanes, the head of the communication department of the zone government, the trapped miners, comprised of 20 youths organized into an association for opal extraction, had their exit blocked by rocks during their nighttime excavation.

The local community has since rallied together, engaging in round-the-clock digging shifts to free the trapped individuals.

The accident, which transpired on February 8, 2024, has prompted a concerted campaign by the Delanta district and the local community to rescue the youths from the underground cave.

As of the latest update, the trapped miners are approximately 750 meters below the surface, with 50 meters of excavation already completed. However, the rugged terrain poses challenges, rendering drilling machines unsuitable for the rescue operation.

This isn’t the first time such an incident has occurred in the region. Three years prior, a similar accident befell opal miners, though all were successfully rescued after an exhaustive 11-day effort.

Mr. Eyasu expressed optimism about the ongoing rescue mission, emphasizing the encouraging efforts being exerted to save the trapped youths.

The South Wolo zone, particularly the Delanta district, is renowned for its opal mining industry, with the government actively organizing youths to extract and supply the mineral to both national and global markets.

Unfortunately, Ethiopia’s mineral industry has been marred by incidents such as these, often resulting in significant loss of life.

In September 2023, a gold mine collapse in the Benishangul Gumuz Region claimed six lives, highlighting the dangers inherent in the country’s mining sector.

Despite efforts to bolster revenue through mineral exports, Ethiopia has struggled to meet its targets, with only $143 million generated out of the projected $243 million in the last six months.

Illegal mining activities and security issues remain significant challenges, leading to decreased income from mineral resources.

The government has taken steps to curb illegal mining, with numerous arrests made in regions such as Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz.

Foreign nationals, as well as Ethiopians, have been apprehended for their involvement in illegal mining activities, underscoring the complexity of the situation.

In light of these challenges, there is a pressing need for enhanced safety measures and regulatory oversight within Ethiopia’s mineral industry to safeguard the lives of miners and promote sustainable resource management practices.


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